Microsoft Set To Announce Something “Fun” In July

For those who’ve known the computing brand VoodooPC know that they were probably the best designed PCs out there. The company led by Rahul Sood made some exquisite computing devices that ran Windows. It was bought by HP and we haven’t heard a lot about the brand since. Rahul Sood decided to work for Microsoft and moved to Seattle.

At first he worked with the Interactive Entertainment Division—the guys behind Xbox. This move made a lot of sense. And then his Twitter profile said he was working with Bing. I was baffled. I did ask him once as to why is someone who is known for his exquisite taste in hardware design working on a search engine. I got no reply. Today, however, he finally let out something. Rahul’s profile says he is working on a project called Bing Fund. Very little is known about what Bing Fund is except, well, it’s a fund for startups. What sort of companies are in Bing Fund’s portfolio isn’t known and neither is why is it called Bing Fund!

Bing Fund has a splash page and according to Rahul Sood, later this month we shall know what Bing Fund is all about.

Theo Valich writing for Bright Side of News says the companies under bing Fund are focussing on developing applications that offer a better software & hardware experience, given Microsoft’s Surface & Windows Phone 8, this will fill in a lot of gaps between Microsoft’s mobile platform and Apple’s. Microsoft has been trying to get the Silicon Valley to consider Microsoft’s Windows Phone as a platform for their apps but hasn’t been able to make any headway, Bing Fund might just be a way.

But why is it called the Bing Fund?!

[Editorial] Should You Use Bing’s Disavow Links To Report Spam Links Pointing Towards Your Site?

The Penguin update, Google’s latest algorithmic tweak takes over optimization very seriously. To be precise, Penguin has been addressed to answer the ever expanding issue of link spam; this algorithmic change lowers the ranking of sites who use unfair means to gain higher ranks in Google search results. (e.g there are sites who try to rob the so called “PageRank” through repetitive anchor texts.)

Penguin, apart from filtering over optimized sites, also scans for possible violations of Google Webmasters quality guidelines. If you have a website which has been intentionally over optimized, has a good number of paid links / reciprocal links, the chances of getting hit by a forthcoming Penguin update is very high. In fact, almost unavoidable.

Probably the worst thing regarding Penguin update is that there is no way you can prevent the upcoming massacre, as you don’t have control on who links to you. This has evoked the concept of negative SEO and many webmasters have this question – Can competitors harm my site through spam links? What is the procedure to tell Google that these links that point to my site are spam, I have not bought them and I dont want them to be associated with my site? I want to tell Google that I am not behind these links and my website should not be a victim of any algorithmic update.

Google: We Will Figure Out Spam Links On Our Own

Google’s classical reply is “You don’t have to worry about who links to you, we will figure it out on our own. We have our own judgement, methodologies and algorithms in place, as reliance on manual feedback from every single site owner is practically impossible. If some spam source is linking to your content and you see thousand of incoming links out of nowhere, you may want to file a spam report.”

However, Google Engineer Matt Cutts has recently said in a video that there are situations when a competitor can actually “behave like a competitor” and try to harm your site.

Matt said:

“Whenever we write an algorithm, e.g which looks at incoming links, we do think about what if a competitor tries to hurt someone else. We try to put in code to make sure that this practice is not easy to do, its not the case that someone can hurt someone else that easily. As a result, we haven’t really felt the need to add a feature in Google Webmaster tools which allows the webmaster to send us a list of links that Google should not trust or count upon. Maybe we will do it down the road but at least for the time being, we are not offering this feature.”

Bing: Tell Us About Unnatural Links From Bing Webmaster Tools

Bing has played white and made the first move, announcing a new feature in Bing Webmaster tools which allows webmasters to disavow links that are unnatural, spammy or completely created from “junk”.

Starting today, you can use your Bing webmaster tools account to tell Microsoft the sources who are maliciously linking to your website. There are situations when a spam site, a porn site or a low quality site rips you off and links to random pages on your site, so now you can tell Bing – “Hey, please do not count these low quality links, I don’t trust them and I have good belief they have been created by a spammer.”

An excerpt from the post:

Using the Disavow Links tool, you can easily and quickly alert Bing about links you don’t trust.  Using the drop-down, you can choose to input signals to us at the page level, a directory level or at a domain level.  We’ll note the “type” of location (page, directory or domain) and the date you told us of the action.

So if you’re paranoid about link spam and want to play it safe, you may want to send the entire list of spam sources to Bing. Please note that Bing team has clearly stated not to expect a dramatic change in search results, just because you’re using the “Disavow links” tools from Bing Webmaster tools. Your action will help Bing understand your intent and thoughts about links that are pointing towards your site, everything else will obviously be in Bing’s hand, not yours.

Verdict: Haters Gonna Hate, Spammers Gonna Spam – Just Do Your Thing!

If you ask me, I would not worry about it at all because this is something beyond my control. A hundred spam sites is okay but in reality, the number is quite high and keeps on increasing every single day. Reporting spam is a vicious circle and a complete waste of time, if your site is a bit old and has decent traffic.

But there can be situations when you’re left with no other choice. For example, your site got hit by a Penguin refresh, you analyzed the logs and found that organic traffic from Google and Bing has tanked. You can try and see if things work out but in general, I would not worry about it that much.  It is best not to worry about something which you can’t control but to make your own thing better, provide a good user experience and polish it until the shine returns.

Setbacks are part of the business, it is just a matter of time when you will take the right steps and the results will reflect on their own, without you having to knock doors of every other search engine on earth.

You know, Karma is awesome!

Microsoft Starts Ad Placements In WP7 Local Scout Results

One of my favorite or frequently used feature on Windows Phone is Bing Local Scout. The app inside Bing Search or stand-alone lets you search for nearby events or places that you can visit. You can search for Art Galleries, exhibitions or restaurants. The app’s usefulness is that not only does it show relevant results but it populates information such as link to the website, contact number, address, and also lets you launch Bing Maps for directions from your current location to the address. It is a handy function that is not highlighted by many.

Anyway, yesterday I forgot my debit card at Olive Garden and to call them I used Local Scout for the number. I clicked the first result looking at the address meta and I landed up on a webpage. That was odd. I hit the back button and saw the A next to the listing and realized that this was an ad placement. The second result was the right one. A very clever placement and use of Local Scout. Nicely done Microsoft.

Here’s a screenshot:

PS: This is the first I’ve noticed the ads.

New Bing To Be More Social, Search With Facebook Friends

Recently, Bing rolled out an update that de-cluttered the search results page. The designers got rid of the left navigation bar and cleaned the header. The result is a nice search result page with white space. As it turns out, Microsoft will be adding a social bar on the right side of the screen. The new social integration will be powered by Facebook. Announced on their Bing blog, the team has done a demo of the upcoming update. Here’s a video that you should watch before reading ahead:

The social sidebar, isn’t just a running feed but the integration is contextual. The blog post says:

  1. You will be able to ask specific friends for what you’re searching for
  2. Bing will use “likes” by your friends to determine if they know about a particular topic and you can ask for their inputs from the social sidebar
  3. Bing’s integration will also leverage the larger Facebook userbase and in case you don’t have or want to ask your friends, Facebook will suggest people you can ask

Google has been trying to do social & search for a while and Google+ is integral in this. However, Facebook is more popular than Google+ and for Microsoft, this is a good thing. The new social search will let you interact and ask friends for recommendations though the sidebar. Jay Greene for CNet reports that the integration came as a result of hackathons where Facebook and Microsoft’s teams came together at Microsoft’s California office. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took interest in these hackathons and talked to the engineers working on this product.

In addition to the sidebar, the Bing team talked about “Snapshot” which lies between the upcoming sidebar and the search results. Snapshot will have actionable information.

You can sign up for the new Bing.

Watch out Google, Facebook-Bing Duo Combine Forces

A phenomenon such as online advertising has gradually moved into the mainstream and has become one of the major marketing methods for companies to reach out to their current and prospective customers. Being a questionable marketing methodology in its introductory phase, businesses soon realized that it beholds the future of advertising. The tremendous amount of advertising being carried out in the social sphere is testimony to the former affirmation. Consequently, the amount of competition has become fiercer and fiercer regardless of whether there are small or big players.

The rivalry between Facebook and Google has been of utmost prominence in the present day era and it is of no exception to competition. Both players have been competing head-to-head with each other for quite a while now. They have not only become competitors but they have converted into worthy adversaries. From time to time, both Google and Facebook have been demanding attention from customers and to do so, they have been playing “pucker-up” with each other. The latest episode in this supposedly never-ending war is an initiative by Facebook. It recognizes Google’s competitive advantage is its search engine and its ultimate attempt to oust it is by portraying this giant advertisement of Microsoft’s search engine “Bing”. Take a look!

The social networking giant revolutionized the media industry and acquired an enviable consumer base in a short passage of time. The way it accomplished it motivated Google to introduce its own social network, Google+. However, its success index is still under examination. What remains interesting in this eternal clash between both these players is what they will keep on doing in the future with respect to each other in order to remain on top.

Bing Bar Gets An Update; Adds Facebook Chat, Better Entertainment and News

After the neat refresh of Bing Bar 7.0 with useful app buttons, the Bing team has released Bing Bar 7.1 with a slew of new features that provides richer access to your social network, more entertainment options, and updates to the popular Bing Bar apps.

Bing Bar

Apart from several improvement under the hood regarding notifications, configurability, and performance, following are the benefits that the latest update offers you:

  • Facebook Chat: Bing Bar now allows you to chat with your Facebook friends without having Facebook opened in your browser.
  • Slacker Radio: The latest update brings Slacker Radio to the bar. It allows you to listen to music, sports, news, comedy and more without interrupting your web browsing.
  • Updated News App: The existing Bing Bar news app has been updated to be more visual now and includes more sources. While you can focus on the topics that interest you, the app notifies you in case of a breaking news within the Bing Bar.
  • Search Suggestions: The Bing Bar provides suggested search terms as you browse. The Bing team has been working on expanding the sites and the methods to suggest searches making it more effective and easier for you.

Download and install manually, or if you’re already a user of Bing Bar 7.0, you’ll get the upgrade automatically delivered to you over the next few months. While the Bing Bar is available in different languages and for different geographies, some of the features of the latest version are not yet available in all markets. The Bing Bar is available for Internet Explorer 7 or later on Windows XP with Service Pack 3, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

Bing And Skype Come Together

If you happen to both participate in Bing’s Rewards program and use Skype, then you’re in luck. Microsoft announced on Wednesday that Skype Credit will be added to the Bing Rewards redemption center; so for only 100 credits, you will be able to receive Skype credit worth 60 minutes of calling on Skype.

Sure, Skype-to-Skype is free, but having the ability to call landlines and mobiles, and send SMS messages through Skype is quite nice. You will also be able to set up a Skype to Go number and access Skype Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. If you aren’t already signed up for the Bing Rewards program — which can be used for plenty of other rewards beyond Skype credit as well — then you should sign up here.

Recently, Bing and Skype came together in another way: The Bing Bar is offered to users during Skype installation. This is a far worse promotion to come out of the collaboration of both teams in contrast to the awesome Bing Rewards for Skype credit promo.I mean, seriously, a web toolbar… that’s offered during the installation of software.

Nevertheless, Liz Tassey Gerber, the Director of Bing and MSN Engagement Marketing concluded her blog post telling us to keep our eyes peeled for more exciting new stuff to come out of the Bing + Skype relationship.

Bing Exec Fired For Misappropriation Of Assets Would Return To Company If Afforded The Opportunity

Last week, two Bing marketing executives were fired from the company following an internal investigation which revealed that they misappropriated company assets. Earlier this week, Eric Hadley, one of the executives fired, issued a comment stating that, if offered, he would have no quarrels to return to the company. He also described working for Microsoft as “the best experience of my life.” However, he offered no comment on the exact events that led to his termination at Microsoft.

So, what exactly went down? AdAge reports that the violations pertained to a three-story Bing Bar in Park City, Utah, established during the Sundance Film Festival. The Bing marketing team apparently paid over $1 million to Co Collective, which is apparently not a Microsoft-approved vendor. Sean Carver, the other executive fired also took a first-class flight from New York to Seattle despite not having the authorization to do so. And finally, there were issues with line items and dates on purchase orders (with the Bing Bar that was set up.)

Nothing too earth-shattering, but it’s likely that Microsoft won’t be bringing these guys back to the company any time soon. Hadley stated that the Bing marketing team will “bounce back”, also expressing his support and confidence in the new marketing chief Mike Nichols.

In a way, it seems like his termination is a loss for the company. He, along with Carver did, after all, work with many celebrities such as Jay-Z and Lebron James to get the word about the brand out there.

Microsoft Fires Two Bing Guys Who Misappropriated Company Assets

According to a statement issued to GeekWire, Microsoft has terminated the employment of Bing marketing executives Eric Hadley and Sean Carver following an internal investigation. Hadley was the general manager of consumer marketing at Bing, while Carver was the director of consumer marketing in Microsoft’s Online Services Division. Here’s what a Microsoft Spokesperson had to say on the matter:

“We can confirm that as the result of an investigation, Eric Hadley and Sean Carver’s employment with Microsoft has been terminated for violation of company policies related to mismanagement of company assets and vendor procurement.”

While we don’t know exactly what they did — the description of their offenses are quite vague, it could have either been a minor or major misappropriation with any possible Microsoft partner(s) — it certainly sounds like a serious offense in either event. AdAge notes that Hadley worked to orchestrate the sponsorship of Jay-Z’s book launch party, along with Lebron James’ “The Decision.”

Business Insider reports that Bing General Manager Mike Nichols will fill the role of the two men in the interim. Microsoft is yet to share additional details on this, nor have they announced whether or not they plan to press criminal charges on the duo.

Bing Revamps Pushpin, Popup, And Transit Designs

The Bing team has been hard at work lately rolling out improvements to its service, such as their recent collaboration with the Nokia Maps team to produce a unified map design, their recent lovemaking with Twitter, or the release of the Bing Maps SDK for Metro-style apps. And earlier this morning, Bing announced a set of design and usability improvements made to two of the most common map elements — pushpins and popups — along with an improved transit experience.

As you can see in the photo above, pushpins have been redesigned. The orange pushpins of the past have been replaced with a cleaner, blue design. What’s the reason behind the change? Bing Senior Program Manager Dan Polivy elaborated: “our goals were simple: enable you to find the information you want, more quickly and efficiently, while at the same time minimizing obstruction of the map”. Pushpins that are generated as a result of a search query will be blue, while pins representing user-generated content will be orange (with the new design, of course.)

A small popup was also added when you hover over a pin, which provides an “at-a-glance” name of the place. This allows you to easily skim through pins throughout the map. And by clicking, this popup can be expanded into a “full” popup, that shows all of the data and interactions you can perform with that place.

Speaking of popups, as you can see above, they too have received quite a substantial redesign. They now have a cleaner, Metro-inspired look that displays the content in a much cleaner fashion than the former design.

A nice touch that was implemented is that the pushpin and popup designs will adjust, should the map call for it so that data isn’t hard to read against the map background.

Moving on to the transit improvements, the colors and signage of the transit lines have been largely refined to better represent their respective real-life counterparts for both US and UK public transport systems. You can also now send transit directions to your mobile phone through SMS. A link to will be sent to you, which will load the transit directions on all platforms that would allow you to navigate to that website (shockingly, Windows Phone is exempt here; it currently does not support transit.)

You will also now be able to easily modify directions routes by clicking and dragging on start, end, or on waypoints.

Pretty exciting changes.